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Originally published Wednesday, August 28, 2013 at 4:58 PM

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Editorial: Let others punish Syria

U.S. allies can take the lead in responding to suspected chemical attacks in Syria. Let the international community assume some responsibility.

Seattle Times Editorial

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THE United States is under no obligation or duty to take the lead in another military intervention, and should not.

Others have the capacity to respond to the suspected chemical attacks in Syria that have roused the international community.

President Obama has been chatting up foreign leaders for the past week, and meeting with administration advisers on how to proceed. The best advice is to step aside and let the French, British and Germans punish the Bashar Assad regime as they see fit.

Syria has been in a heightened state of turmoil since 2011. A brutal taxonomy of religious groups, internal rebels and regional foes are challenging the Assad family dictatorship.

The rebels, coalitions and militias hate one another with the same zeal they loathe the brutal ruling authority in Damascus. A suspected chemical strike outside of the capital is getting special attention after repeated reports of similar attacks.

The ostensibly detached launch of cruise missiles from U.S. Navy ships is no encouragement to get involved.

The U.S. and its presumed confederates in a response have no real clue who is doing what to whom, or who among the rebel groups ought to prevail and be in charge.

No tidy divisions of authority, credibility or capacity exist. Can the outside forces identify a coalition with broad acceptance within Syria?

The U.S. should take sides? With whom? This innate lack of understanding of the local political, social and religious environment has haunted U.S. intentions and presumptions repeatedly.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose country is aligned with Syria’s dictatorship, wags a finger at the global community, and says that use of force without a sanction by the U.N. Security Council is a crude violation of international law.

A sanction, if sought, would certainly be vetoed by the Russians.

Snipers were shooting Monday at U.N. officials looking in a town near Damascus for evidence of chemical weapons.

If the international community, which has been a spectator of this rebellion for two years, wants to punish Syria, then let them organize and act.

The United States can mull its recent history in the Middle East and contemplate an exit from Afghanistan. Demonstrate the restraint of lessons learned.

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